Monday, 13 April 2015

My birthday weekend Part Two: Love and Death

I am grateful to Mr. Julian Calendar for arranging the Easter Weekend to fall around my 40th birthday, as it meant that I could squeeze in a lake walk on the Bank Holiday Monday, and still use the excuse of it being my birthday.  I am thinking I might just continue on celebrating throughout April, and possibly even the rest of the year... perhaps even until I turn 41 and someone tells me I really actually have to stop celebrating turning 40 now.

We'd had friends over for coffee in the morning, and fog was starting to descend on the Fylde Coast. John and I decided to chase the blue skies promised on the Weather app on my phone.  Grasmere is only an hour or so away, and so we jumped in the car and looked nervously at the skies until we left the motorway, at which point the sun came bursting through - hooray!

What with it being the Easter Bank Holiday, and with me being a Christian, I’d perhaps done more reflecting than most about love and new life, through from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.  But there was yet more to remind me, when only about 10 minutes into our walk, we were confronted with a huge pond of froggy lovin’. 

Mr Lovva Lovva

A close up of the frogs.  If it looks like a leaf, it may well be a frog. If it looks like a frog, it is a frog, or possibly two frogs, if you know whadda mean ;-)
Looking at the map, I think it was actually Whitemoss Tarn… so I'm doing it a disservice calling it a pond.  And I'm now pleased I can add another 'lake' to my list! There was some serious partying going on… the water was thick with frogs croaking to one another.  I’d never heard a frog croak in real life before, but I certainly had by the time we left the pond-side.  There was a dull roar in the air, a bit like a faraway hoover.  I’m hoping you can hear it on the video below (before the zooming out mechanism makes more noise than everything else!). 

We could have stood there in the afternoon sun, spotting frogs for ages, but decided that would have made us a bit weird, and poor Usko would have felt tormented at not being able to chase the jumping little amphibians; so off to do our anti-clockwise circuit around Grasmere we went.

It seemed that every step of the walk, we saw animals in pairs: geese, herons (who had a nest high up in a really tall tree.  I don’t know why this surprised me: herons are birds that fly, why wouldn’t they nest in trees?!), butterflies, and no, not sheep, but the lambs were gambolling around. Everywhere were pointers to the new life that Easter is (to me, certainly) all about.

We sat at Howe Top, which was only a few minutes in, but it’s such a lovely view from the bench, that we decided it was time for our first cuppa.  And I tried out the zoom on my fancy-pants camera.
The bench

The view

The zoomed view
Apparently you can click on these pictures to see them bigger. I didn't know this until last week. Anyway, the zoom is rather good, and I feel like I could star in 'CSI' now, and legitimately say "Can you look closely at the corner of the photo and see what book he is reading?" and it could maybe nearly actually be doable ;-)

We then descended to the village of Grasmere, and Wordsworth’s house.  The mountainous backdrop as we approached the village was just gorgeous. If I were a proper aficionado, I would name the mountains for you. But I ain't. So I won't. You can look them up if you're that interested ;-)

The church in the village plays a tune on the hour, and it was 4 o’clock as we got there.  I found myself humming along, recognising it as an old hymn (which is called St. Clement according to my mother-in-law), and then realised the first line of the hymn is “The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended”… not quite the jollity of the new life I’d been thinking of a few minutes earlier.  

It turned out to be a sign of things to come on the walk: as many frogs as we’d seen in the party pond, we must have seen a quarter again as ex-frogs.  Squashed on the road mostly.  Perhaps on their way to the tawdry tarn of froggy fornication, but they didn’t make it there.  It was really quite grim.  But the saddest sight of all was actually on the lake’s edge, when I was so keen to get to a clump of daffodils to take a picture ( -well, we had been past Wordsworth’s house after all, it would have been disrespectful not to), that I almost tripped over a dead Canada goose :-(

Needless to say, I didn’t photograph any of the carnage I’ve mentioned; I found some other daffs to snap later. 

Beautiful gardens on our way down to the village

Dog on a rock photo 1: trying to get the dog to pay attention

When he realised I was holding a treat, he was more interested

The garden at Wordsworth's cottage

A (living) frog

Sneaky peek of a stream in someone's back garden


Snack time. And no, I couldn't be bothered to airbrush the lead out of this one

John took this. He was describing it to boy3 as 'a beautiful lady drinking some tea'. Boy3 looks up and laughs "No Daddy! That's just Mummy!". Oozes charm, that child.

Dog on a rock part 2

Green stuff on a rock.  Fascinating, but annoying, in that whenever I see one, I get Frozen's 'Fixer Upper' song stuck in my head, and I don't know it very well, so I only have a couple of lines going round and round on repeat :-/


And so I ended a wonderful weekend cogitating the circle of life.  Missing my parents, but grateful for their continued life in this world, through me, my sister and our children; and grateful for their new life in the next world, where they are without pain, cancer, or sadness.  I am grateful for the hope that my faith gives me: that through the sacrificial death of a God who loves me, and the amazing resurrection that defeated death itself, I can look forward to that same joyful afterlife.

Apologies to those of you for whom that doesn't resonate; but that is what was on my mind this Easter.  Death, love, and new life.  
Peace to you xx

Thursday, 9 April 2015

My birthday weekend walks Part One: Life begins...

I saw in my arrival to a new decade by circumnavigating Ennerdale Water in the company of my husband and my dog.  The oldest boy had offered to babysit the other two free of charge in honour of it being such a special day, so John and I took this offer and stretched it as far as we could, and managed about 12 hours away from home.

We'd already decided that over the course of the Easter weekend, the Saturday would be the best day for a walk due to a) the weather being predicted to be nice, and b) there being no church celebration to attend that day. Once that was decided upon, I sat on the BBC weather website comparing the forecast for various lakes.  It seemed the further west the better, and so Ennerdale Water won out. Hence we were out for such a long time: Ennerdale is about 2 and a quarter hours away from us. Not that the journey felt that long at all; we had beautiful scenery to gaze at, and C.S.Lewis' 'The Last Battle' on audiobook to keep us further entertained.

We arrived at the car park at 10am, and were one of a handful there.

Anything we'd read prior to arrival suggested that this was going to be a really very quiet day, with barely a soul to be met.  I have come to the conclusion that the people who write the internet have not been to Ennerdale on a sunny Easter Saturday.  Certainly the morning was quiet enough, but as we got to the western end of the lake, random groups of people started appearing to enjoy a day by the water.  How rude.  They obviously hadn't got the memo that with it being such a significant birthday, I was in charge (this is definitely true because my youngest boy told me so. I'm not sure who he thinks is usually in charge, but we'll let that one slide); and therefore they were not supposed to get in the way of me with my new birthday present:

John had bought me a Canon Powershot G7X as my birthday present. Yes I did just have to look that up on the box.
So we started out at the eastern end, and stopped to take some pictures of the beautiful view.  Usko was keen to assert his ownership of Ennerdale Water, and did a wee up the leg of a bench.  It was a bench bearing the inscription: "Ian Forsyth and Prince: Lake District Search and Rescue Dogs Association". I like to think it's what Prince would have wanted.

We did the trickier side of the lake first. Mr. Ordnance Survey had given us no indication that it would be tricky: the dotted line of the path has no extra marks to show that you have to Slide Down Some Nearly Vertical Rock Faces. But hey ho.

Rucksack to left of picture for scale.  John came down the drop on the right, then realised there was a slightly less sheer route on the left. So he scrambled up a bit (to where the rucksack is) and told me to pass the doggy on the left hand side. I did so and then scrambled down to join them both.  Apologies (only mild ones though) if you now have Musical Youth stuck in your head.
I think I'll let the photos show you the journey for a while

First view of Ennerdale Water was over the weir

I promise I didn't do this walk on my knees...

Dog on a rock

Dodgy Man hanging about by a gate again.  Angling for a kiss. (See what I did there?!)

I'd said to John that on my birthday walk, I really wanted to see a blue sky reflected in a lake.
 And I got to :-)

Where we had a little smackerel of something for our elevenses...

...and enjoyed this view whilst we did so.

John's favourite gnarly tree

A favourite nesting spot, it would seem

Imaginative Title Award goes to....

The end of the lake; from which point onwards People regularly appeared.

View as we ate our sarnies

Managed to snap this sunbathing Peacock. Not brilliant I know, but still pleased with myself for achieving it!

Back to the weir again.
We arrived back at the car park to find it full to over-flowing, and some skilled negotiation was required to exit safely.  Although never warm enough to wear less than a jumper, John and I both managed to get ourselves slightly sun-kissed noses and cheeks. Or, to put it less glamourously, inverted panda eyes from our shades.

And although I jest about the other people appearing in my view, I can only imagine that the more tourist-favoured places on the Lakes will have been absolutely heaving.  So I'm glad that Ennerdale was quiet and serene for the most part: it was a day of mixed emotions due to being my first birthday without a card from either parent :-(  But I spent the evening in the company of my menfolk, with a movie to watch and cards and presents to open; deciding to make sure that my life does begin at 40 :-D